I have to admit I knew very little about 5 Centimeters Per Second when it landed on my doorstep. I knew it was a series of short stories a little over an hour in length, but that was about it. I decided not to read up before watching it, and was very glad I didn’t.
This collection of three episodes covers different snapshots in the life of Takaki Tono and his relationship with a specific girl in each instance. The focus is on the emotion generated from his interactions or lack of them with each girl, and the subsequent emotion that brings out in the viewer.
On its own that may seem quite dull, and depending on your anime tastes it will remain that way regardless. But the storyline and characters are backed up by some of the most beautiful artwork and attention to detail I have seen in a while. The art style and detail in every aspect of a scene looks to have been painstakingly poured over by the artists. Choosing screenshots to release must have been difficult because there are just so many stills you could take and use.
The three episodes are entitled Cherry Blossom, Cosmonaut, and 5 Centimeters Per Second. The time period they cover is 1990 to present day. By far the most heart wrenching is Cherry Blossom which sees Takaki trying desperately to reach his close friend Akari Shinohara who has transferred to a distant elementary school leaving them both yearning for one another.
His train journey to meet her after several months apart is severely hampered by heavy snow which refuses to stop falling. Set in a time when mobile phones weren’t common, you see a young boy becoming more and more desperate as the time of their meeting passes with no end in sight to his journey and no way of contacting her.
The second episode, Cosmonaut is set at a later time period, but still with Takaki in school. Now he is pursued by a different girl called Kanae Sumida who has fallen in love with him. Here we get to see Takaki distracted and always writing messages on his phone, yet still being a gentleman and spending time with this girl as a friend. There is no sign of Akari in this episode, but the sense I got was those messages he writes are for her and ultimately why Kanae has the realisation she does.
When watching Cosmonaut I was regularly reminded of the classic feature anime The Wings of Honneamise. It certainly had the same feel about it, although the space program elements were much sparser.
The final episode was in my opinion the weakest of the three. It sees Takaki grown up, living alone, and working as a programmer in Tokyo. At the same time he is caught up in thinking about Akari instead of getting on with his own life and tending to the girlfriend he has been with for the last 3 years. Akari in turn is set to marry someone else.
While the emotion generated in the first two episodes was almost overwhelming at times, this last episode was not to the same standard. It does bring the story to a close with a great montage of clips, but I was expecting more from this final part.
As someone who prefers action-heavy anime I found 5 Centimeters Per Second a pleasant surprise. Yes, it did well up a few emotions inside me I didn’t expect – especially that first episode. I was also taken aback by the quality of the artwork and the depiction of the environments.
Unless you are dead set against watching anime that concentrates entirely on the relationship between two people, I recommend a watch. It’s only an hour and is something you will want to come back to for further viewings if for nothing else but the artwork on display here.